The only possible response to this is spelled in special characters: '#@*'
RIP, Benny’s, aka the Value of Local
The big news in Rhode Island this week was the impending closure of the Benny’s chain. When CEO Arnold Bromberg announced that the beloved retailer, 93 years young, will close all 32 stores, the whole state practically went into mourning.
I am not a Rhode Island native, but I am a transplant of long standing. I attended college in Providence. I married a Rhode Islander. Our daughter graduated from Lincoln- a Providence girls’ school. To us, Benny’s is an important loss. It’s where you replace your Christmas lights and outdoor decorations every December. It’s where you buy a new beach chair each June. What? Benny’s is gone? Where will we get those things now?
And Benny’s was more than just habit; it was also a neighbor, a known entity, the small chain where you always, always received genuine, friendly, in-person customer service. One of Benny’s most famous ads, the ‘Lost Customer’, featured a bewildered shopper wandering the aisles of a Big Box store, attempting to find help. That just did not happen at Benny’s; if you looked lost, someone popped up to help you find the right item. And the Bromberg family were and are locals, generously supporting local arts, education, and charitable groups. The loss of Benny’s is just that-a big loss.
Towns consist of more than bricks and boards. The best local businesses do more than just provide a particular good or service. Quoted in East Side Monthly, Asher Schofield, owner of Providence’s Frog and Toad, puts it this way: ‘Sooner or later, everyone will realize there’s nothing more important in creating a sense of place than (a town’s) mom-and-pop stores.’ And this: ‘I have entered into a contract with my community. I will do my best to provide something that is unique and special, and if I succeed, (they) will come in and support us so I can pay my bills.’ Left unsaid is that Schofield also does an immense amount of charitable and civic engagement work.
From the beginning, this was my vision for Pour Richard’s: a true community asset which would provide a unique experience while also giving back to the community that supports us. We’re almost 5 years in. It feels good. I think we’ll try for 88 more.